After more than six months of no theater to experience, I was beyond excited to be in the audience for Forgotten Lore Theatre’s Illimitable Dominion, an immersive experience that is a part of the 2020 FringeArts Festival. It was my first time seeing a show in the Philly Fringe Festival, which is a contemporary visual arts festival that features four weeks of performances by national, international and Philadelphia-based artists. This year (from September 10 – October 4), most of the festivals performances take place virtually rather than all over the city. There are a few in-person events, though, and Illimitable Dominion is one of them.
From the moment I drove into West Laurel Hill Cemetery, I was put into the mindset of this daring production. As part of Forgotten Lore’s Evermore Cycle, the show takes inspiration from Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe’s 1842 meeting in Philadelphia and imagines a bond between the two authors that outlasts death itself. Audiences will recognize many of the characters in Illimitable Dominion from the writers’ famous works- The Raven, Miss Havisham, The Red Death, and Jacob Marley.
What sets the production a part from a normal theatre experience (besides having the perfect setting of the cemetery), is how it is executed. Three-hundred and sixty degrees, overlapping dialogue and a “choose your own adventure” kind of feel allow each audience member to have their own experience. Due to COVID, audience members cannot move around, so where you choose to sit can determine the course of the story, but there really isn’t a bad vantage point. All around me there were extraordinary performances, yet I kept my eye on the Red Death, bewitching and played by Sascha Gruden.
Since the production does encourage the viewer to fill in the blank spaces of time and create their own story, it doesn’t feel right to try to explain the show’s plot to anyone who has yet to see it. The story is woven perfectly and has an exciting ending – and brilliantly choreographed fight scene – that brings the audience to the same conclusion.
It did strike me as funny, though, to be watching a show about a disease infecting the streets of London as I socially distanced myself from other patrons because of a disease infecting our streets. Luckily, Illimitable Dominion is a work of fiction.
For more on the company’s Evermore Cycle, the production offers the first installment of their graphic novel. It is available to purchase at the show and is entitled Evermore: Chapter 1 Provocation, the origin story of the Red Death.
Visit https://www.forgottenlore.org/illimitabledominion for more information. Tickets for upcoming performances are SOLD OUT.